Sunday Stakes Wrapup

Network Hits Diana / Jim Dandy Daily Double for $15.60, but Longshot of the Day Starts Saratoga's SENSATIONAL SEVEN Program with Our Edge as a $77.00 winner ($38.80 to place).

The Saratoga Sensational Seven Continues Wednesday With 4 more Days of racing action plus 2 FREE bonus days!

Network nails another HUGE exacta Friday in race 8 at Arlington! Stanley G / Nic The Quick pays $339.40.

Thurday in race 8 at Saratoga, Artest / Drago's Best / Gentleman's Code cashes $76.50 exacta and $424.50 trifecta! 


Paynter continues Baffert dominance of Haskell

Zayat Stables' Paynter romped to a 3 3/4-length triumph over Nonios in Sunday's Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational, furthering Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's stranglehold on Monmouth Park's signature race. Baffert, who already owned the record, has now sent out his sixth Haskell winner, and an unprecedented third in a row.

Paynter was coming off a last-gasp loss to Union Rags in the June 9 Belmont Stakes, capping a heartbreaking Triple Crown series for his connections. Stablemate and fellow Zayat standard-bearer Bodemeister had similarly been collared late by I'll Have Another in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

With the retirements of both I'll Have Another and Union Rags due to injury, the mantle of leading active three-year-old is now up for grabs, and Paynter stated his case with alacrity in the Haskell.

"Jimmy and I have always been high on him," Baffert said from Del Mar, referring to assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, who saddled the colt at Monmouth.
"He worked really well there (at Del Mar) getting ready for this. He came here and showed us he is a serious horse."

The Awesome Again colt looked rather sweaty in the post parade, but that didn't affect his odds, or his performance. Clipped to even-money favoritism as he entered the gate, Paynter didn't break as sharply as his market rival Gemologist, the 2-1 second choice, who blasted straight to the lead.

As Gemologist posted an opening quarter in :23 4/5, Paynter was guided into a perfect stalking spot on the outside by new rider Rafael Bejarano. Gemologist raced a couple of paths off the rail, and the opening was too inviting for the rail-drawn Nonios down the backstretch. Nonios took the opportunity to move up along the inside and press Gemologist through a half in :48.

The pacesetter inched away again from Nonios nearing the far turn, and Paynter, covering that move, drew up to Gemologist's throatlatch through six furlongs in 1:11 1/5. For a few strides, the two principals promised to serve up a rousing duel.

But Gemologist wasn't traveling as sweetly as Paynter was. Jockey Javier Castellano had to resort to the whip surprisingly early rounding the final turn, and there was no response.

Now that his nearest competitor was finished, Paynter quickly opened up swinging for home. The only possible challenger was Nonios, who by this time had angled to the outside. The rest of the field were all soundly beaten.

As if hearing the approach of Nonios' hoofbeats, Paynter found another gear down the stretch. The sharply improving bay stamped his authority in decisive terms, reaching the mile in 1:36 1/5 and completing 1 1/8 miles on the fast track in 1:48 4/5. Paynter furnished mutuels of $4, $2.60 and $2.40.

Some observers might have viewed Paynter as a need-the-lead type, but not Bejarano. The hot rider, who transferred his torrid streak from Del Mar to Monmouth on Haskell Day, had gotten familiar with Paynter by working him in the mornings.

"I knew I could come from off the pace if I wanted to," Bejarano said. "I pulled him to the outside and that was that. He ran so easy.

"I knew Gemologist was the horse to beat, but if he wanted to go to the lead, that was fine. At the half-mile pole, my horse blew by him and that was that.

"It was thrilling for me to win the Haskell. It's a great race, and great for my career."

Nonios finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Stealcase, who found himself last early after hitting the gate, but closed to grab third. Handsome Mike reported home fourth, trailed by Dullahan and Gemologist.

Paynter's first career stakes victory boosted his bankroll to $952,224 from his 6-3-2-0 line. Unraced at two, he impressively won his February 18 debut in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden at Santa Anita. Paynter was pitched straight into the deep end in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby April 7, where he was trying classy and seasoned opponents while stretching out to 1 1/8 miles. A poor start didn't help, but he still finished a creditable fourth to I'll Have Another.

Runner-up in the Grade 3 Derby Trial next time out at a sloppy Churchill Downs April 28, Paynter showed that he was heading in the right direction with a 5 3/4-length decision in an allowance on Preakness Day at Pimlico. His progress continued in the Belmont Stakes, with only Union Rags thwarting a wire-to-wire score.

Now Paynter joins an illustrious group of Baffert-trained Haskell winners -- Horse of the Year Point Given (2001), champion War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005), two-time champion Lookin at Lucky (2010) and Coil (2011). Of those, only Lookin at Lucky boasted a bigger winning margin at Monmouth (four lengths).

"When you win, they always feel like the first one," Baffert said of his place in the record book. "They're all exciting and they never get old."
Paynter is now expected to advance to the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 25. A win in the "Midsummer Derby" would cement his status atop the active members of the division.

Bred by Diamond A Racing Corp. in Kentucky, Paynter was a $325,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. He is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Tiz West, stakes queen Tizakitty and the stakes-placed Tizalovelylady.

Paynter is out of the Cee's Tizzy mare Tizso, a full full sister to Hall of Famer Tiznow as well as multiple Grade 2 star and $2.8 million-earner Budroyale, Grade 2 victress Tizdubai and Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Tizbud.

Amazombie overhauls The Factor in Bing Crosby

If Bing Crosby had been around to see champion sprinter Amazombie line up in the race run in his honor Sunday at Del Mar, he might have crooned a few bars of "Just One More Chance." Only third in last year's running of the Grade 1 dash, the Bill Spawr charge took a different path this time, and made the most of his second chance in the $300,000 renewal of the Bing Crosby. Amazombie capitalized on a speed duel that softened up even-money favorite The Factor, and ran him down late to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths.

Freshened since his runner-up effort to Shackleford in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day, Amazombie was reportedly stronger than he had been for the 2011 Bing Crosby, and that hypothesis was verified. The 9-5 second choice broke like a shot from the rail with regular rider Mike Smith, but was soon content to settle into third, and enjoy the pace scenario unfolding before him.

Comma to the Top hustled to the front, The Factor went right after to press him, and the two speedsters hooked up through testing fractions of :22 1/5 and :44 2/5 on the Polytrack. The Factor was the stronger of the pair as they straightened down for the drive, but he was making hard work of grinding his way to the fore through five furlongs in :56 2/5.

Amazombie, on the other hand, was now in his element. Producing his trademark closing kick, the Eclipse Award winner had too much firepower for the laboring The Factor. Amazombie strode away to finish six furlongs in 1:08 3/5 and returned $5.80, $2.60 and $2.10.

"He's just a professional racehorse," Smith summed up. "He's bigger, stronger, thicker this year. He goes right on about it.

"Bill has done a terrific job with him. He looks so good. And Bill thinks he's even better this year. I know that's a scary thought, but I think he's right.

"He'll run wherever you put him," Smith continued. "If he runs seven-eighths, that's no problem. It takes a really good horse to beat him. That horse that did (Shackleford in the Churchill Downs Stakes going seven furlongs) is maybe the best miler in the country. It takes that kind of horse to beat him at that distance. He (Amazombie) is just something special."

"We feel, training him, that he's got more muscle to him than he's ever had," said Spawr, who co-owns Amazombie with Thomas C. Sanford. "It's a good feeling to beat a good field like this. It's a good feeling to beat The Factor."

Spawr described what was different this year from last.

"We ran him in the Triple Bend (Grade 1 on July 2, 2011) and he lost some weight, then we ran him back in the Crosby as a prep (for later races)," Spawr said of his previous campaign. "We were serious about the race then, but he wasn't as fit as he was today, or as fresh as he was today.

"He ran well today, because he's sharp, but Mike (Smith) said he feels different on synthetic and he prefers dirt.

"It surprised me how easily he won. But being around him every day, he just is better than ever."

The Factor barely salvaged runner-up honors by a head from the late-running Capital Account. Comma to the Top was a weary fourth, and Don Tito rounded out the compact field of five.

Martin Garcia, rider of The Factor, suggested that his mount is better over seven furlongs than six.

"His best distance is seven-eighths," Garcia said. "You don't have to push on him so hard then, and he can run better. That other horse (Comma to the Top) bothered him. He (Comma to the Top) was going in and out and brushed with my horse. My horse ran good, just not good enough."

With this third Grade 1 title, and seventh overall stakes score to his credit, Amazombie's scorecard stands at 27-12-5-6, $1,905,378. The California-bred son of Northern Afleet was a progressive performer last season. Beginning 2011 with a victory in his stakes debut in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, he ended it with a crescendo in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to clinch the divisional Eclipse Award. At various points in between, Amazombie captured the Grade 1 Ancient Title, Grade 2 Potrero Grande and Tiznow, and crossed the wire first in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap, only to be demoted to third for interference. He also just missed in the grassy Sensational Star Handicap and finished third in the Triple Bend prior to his third in the Bing Crosby.

Amazombie kicked off 2012 with a third to The Factor in the Grade 2 San Carlos over seven furlongs on February 25, but rebounded to defend his title successfully in the slightly shorter Potrero Grande over 6 1/2 furlongs April 7. The six-year-old showed more early speed than usual in the May 5 Churchill Downs, and was just outdueled by the tough Shackleford, again at a seven-furlong trip that might be a tad beyond his best.

Spawr indicated that, from this point, he will follow the same itinerary that worked so well one year ago. Amazombie will aim for a repeat in the race formerly known as the Ancient Title (now the Santa Anita Sprint Championship) on October 6, followed by another title defense in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, to be held on his own home circuit at Santa Anita.

The Santa Anita Sprint Championship is a "Win and You're In" race as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge program, but the Bing Crosby isn't.

"This race (Crosby) should be a 'Win and You're In' -- I don't understand it," Spawr noted.

Bred by Gregg Anderson, Amazombie RNA'd for $32,000 as a Barretts January two-year-old. He was produced by the winning In Excess mare Wilshe Amaze, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes victor Flom's Prospector.

Currency Swap takes Amsterdam

Klaravich Stables Inc. and William H. Lawrence's Currency Swap asserted his class in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, drawing off in the lane to be 1 3/4 lengths clear on the wire under jockey Rajiv Maragh. The Terri Pompay trainee easily lived up to his 9-5 favoritism to pay $5.60, $3.20 and $2.60.

"He loves it here," Pompay asserted. "He's been doing really well. I looked at him, and it was like he was doing it easy. I'd rather have him sit and stalk than be on the pace.

"Rajiv, you can't tell him how the race is going to unfold. I said, 'I don't want a speed duel, but break with attention.' He's a smart rider. You just make the decisions when you break."

"We click together. We are a good combination," Maragh said of riding for Saratoga Springs-native Pompay. "I've been riding for her for many years. It has always been a good relationship. I'm so happy to win for her. I know last year when we won the Hopeful (with Currency Swap), it was her first Grade 1 race, and it happened in Saratoga, which is great for her. To come back to her hometown, I know it means a lot to her."

Currency Swap settled just to the outside of Doctor Chit on the backstretch, keeping in close contact with that rival through sizzling splits of :21 2/5 and :44. Despite the speedy pace, Doctor Chit maintained his lead into the stretch. It wasn't until Maragh gave Currency Swap a few taps with the right-handed whip that the bay son of High Cotton finally passed the pacesetter to stop the clock in 1:15 1/5 for 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track.

"He's a real amazing horse. He does all of the running," Maragh noted. "He's a pretty strong horse. He's got a lot of speed. All of the way, he was giving me a lot of energy and came on strong.

"From day one, this horse always showed a lot of ability, and (Pompay) was really high on the horse. She really thought the world of him. He always keeps showing up for good races.

"I wasn't concerned with the pace. These are good horses, and they're always going to run a fast pace just on their natural ability. I just wanted to have a clean trip and be in a striking position, regardless of how fast they were going. I got a good outside trip on Doctor Chit. I just stalked, and pounced."

It was a blanket finish for the next three spots, as Doctor Chit kept his neck in front to take second over Unbridled's Note, who in turn was up by that same margin on Laurie's Rocket for third. Fort Loudon, last-out winner of the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes at Calder, followed in fifth. Gun Boat lost all chance at the start of the race, going to his knees and banging his head on the ground when the gates opened, but managed to pass Politicallycorrect to be the penultimate finisher.

"He broke well and he ran great. You can't run any better than that. We were second-best on the day but he showed he belongs," assistant trainer Tristan Barry said of Doctor Chit. "You'd always like to get the pace a little easier than that, but this horse always tries hard, and I knew he would run on down the lane. He did well just to hold second, as fast as he went early on.

"I thought the horse showed a lot of character. I thought he ran great. The winner's a nice horse and he did well today, just second best."

Currency Swap has now run one-two in all but one of his seven career starts, racking up a 4-2-0 scorecard to go along with $448,300 in lifetime earnings. The sophomore opened his account with a pair of wins at Saratoga last year, including a three-quarter length victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. He wouldn't be seen in action again until March 16, when the bay was a well-beaten second to next-out Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Gemologist.

Currency Swap's connections were eyeing a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, and ran their charge in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby in an attempt to get enough graded earnings to make the field as well as to see if he could handle a route of ground. Unfortunately, he suffered a rough trip in that 1 1/8-mile affair and wound up 11th on the wire. Instead of the Kentucky Derby, the bay colt showed up in the You and I Stakes at Belmont Park on May 12, and got back to his winning ways with a three-quarter length score. Most recently the Florida-bred sophomore ran second to Trinniberg in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes on June 9.

Bred by Stonecliff Farm, Currency Swap sold for $42,000 his first time through the sales ring as an OBS Fall Mixed weanling, then brought $70,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. Last year, the bay was a $92,000 RNA at the OBS March Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training.

Currency Swap is out of the unraced Pine Bluff mare Echo Bluff, who is herself a daughter of Grade 3 winner You'renotlistening. The 13-year-old mare is a half-sister to dual stakes victor Your Bluffing and Grade 2-placed Nacho Friend, and this is the same female line as Grade 3 hero Black Jack Road and Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Ascension.


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